NBA free agency 2024: D'Angelo Russell intends to opt into final year with Lakers

In a decision that could have ripple effects over the next several weeks, D'Angelo Russell plans to pick up his $18.7 million option to play for the Los Angeles Lakers next season, according to multiple reports.

Russell averaged 18 points (on 46/42/83 shooting splits), 6.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game this past season, helping the Lakers to a 47-35 record and the seventh seed in the Western Conference. His scoring average fell to 14.2 points (38/32/50) in the playoffs, where the Lakers lost to Denver in the first round.

"I love what JJ [Redick, the Lakers' new head coach] is about and I really see myself thriving under his gudance to help win at a high level," Russell told ESPN's Dave McMenamin about his decision to opt in.

Lakers reserve Jaxson Hayes also exercised his $2.4 million option to play for the Lakers, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. Hayes and Redick were teammates on the 2019-20 New Orleans Pelicans.

Russell is a quality pick-and-roll ball-handler, even making an All-Star team in 2019, but his production has historically declined greatly in the playoffs, where his defensive limitations have also been exploited.

The Lakers traded Russell Westbrook and a 2027 first-round draft pick in the deal that brought Russell back to Los Angeles at the 2023 trade deadline. They signed Russell to a two-year, $36 million contract last summer and reportedly shopped him at the February trade deadline, when they had eyes on Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray. The Hawks showed no interest in Russell, per The Athletic's Sam Amick.

But count Lakers guard Austin Reaves among those who wanted to see Russell stay in L.A.

"I want him to be around," Reaves told HoopsHype's Michael Scotto this past April. "That’s probably my best friend on the team. We hang out off the court and golf a lot together. We’re constantly in communication and play Call of Duty together. He’s been one of my closest friends since I’ve been in the NBA. Obviously, his basketball play speaks for itself with how talented he is and what he can do for our group. We need him to be at our best. When he’s playing at his best is when we’re playing at our best. Anything we can do or I can do to help him stay around, I’m definitely going to try to do that."

The basketball world was watching Russell's decision. Opting in means the Lakers could still include his mid-tiered contract in trade talks. Opting out meant he controlled his own basketball destiny, even if it meant a pay cut from an $18.7 million starting salary next season. Guess we know where his priorities lie.

D'Angelo Russell has reportedly decided to opt into the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)
D'Angelo Russell has reportedly decided to opt into the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)